A chemiluminescent sandwich ELISA test has been developed for the detection and quantitation of pneumolysin. The test is based on a mouse monoclonal as the capture antibody and on rabbit polyclonal IgGs as detection antibodies, in combination with an anti-rabbit IgG alkaline phosphatase conjugate. The estimated detection limit of the purified recombinant toxin in phosphate-buffered saline with 0.05% Triton X-100 is around 5 pg ml(-1), with averaged intra- and inter-assay variation coefficients of 7% and 13.5%, respectively. The assay has been applied to the quantitation of pneumolysin in pneumococcal isolates, providing, for the first time, a direct measurement of the amount of the toxin produced by different strains, a variation has been found in their pneumolysin content. The test is highly specific as no other purified toxins or human pneumonia- or meningitis-associated bacteria yielded false-positive results. This specific and highly sensitive method could help in the diagnosis of human infections.